American Citizens Barred from Leaving Kuwait

A Kuwaiti lawyer stands outside the constitutional court in Kuwait City. / AP


A spat between two competing contracting companies is keeping U.S. citizens trapped on military bases in Kuwait, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

More than 50 U.S. contractors are marooned in Kuwait, stuck on American military bases for an unknown amount of time. They cannot leave the country for any reason and some have already been arrested for trying.

This saga began when their employer, Global Linguistics Solutions (GLS), a Pentagon contracting giant, decided to end a partnership with its Kuwaiti business sponsor Al Shora when their contract was over.

Foreign contractors must be sponsored by partnering with a Kuwaiti company under Kuwaiti law. GLS tried to find a new Kuwaiti partner but Al Shora complicated this.

According to Foreign Policy:

Here's where things get tricky. According to the lawsuit, Al Shora warned GLS that severing the relationship could lead to legal problems for their contractors. GLS, the suit says, "made a conscious business decision" to do so anyway. GLS, for its part, said it had to sever ties with Al Shora because the Kuwaiti firm refused to submit a formal proposal for a share of the new contract. GLS says that Al Shora's managing director, the sister-in-law of the country's prime minister, responded by threatening to "destroy" the American company.

Things soon deteriorated even further. GLS says that Al Shora promised to transfer all of the U.S. contractors to the company's new Kuwaiti sponsor, but never did. Instead, Al Shora told Kuwaiti authorities that Maroufi and the other GLS contractors had failed to show up their jobs, violating the terms of their work visas and putting them in breach of Kuwaiti immigration law. GLS said it tried to negotiate with Al Shora to rescind the allegations, only to have the Kuwaiti company demand $22 million in exchange for doing so. When GLS refused to pay, the Kuwaiti government began arresting individual contractors like Abdulghani, the Iowa resident trying to return home to see his sick mother.

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